As a police chaplain and pastor, Terry Rainwater can’t help but be troubled by human trafficking statistics. For example, the average age a child forced into prostitution in Georgia is between 12 and 14. And between 200 to 375 girls are sold or exploited in any given month in the state, primarily in the Atlanta area.
Rainwater, pastor of Highlands Baptist Church in Hogansville and chaplain for the Hogansville Police Department, said the statistics shared at a recent training event hosted by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s “Mission Georgia” initiative are overwhelming, and the stories behind the statistics are heartbreaking.
The state Mission Board’s chaplaincy ministry brought in Mission Georgia representatives to share some of those stories with Rain-water and other police chaplains at a recent training event.
“It was overwhelming,” Rainwater said.
“What really broke my heart was the number of children being trafficked.”
When Georgia chaplains needed training on how to recognize and rescue children and adults caught up in human trafficking, they turned to GBMB, which has taken a lead role in the fight against what has been described as modern-day slavery.
‘On the frontlines’
“Law enforcement officials are on the frontlines of this issue, so it’s crucial that police chaplains have a better understanding of human trafficking,” said Lorna Bius, mobilizer for Mission Georgia.
Mission Georgia is a ministry of GBMB. According to its website, missiongeorgia.org, it “seeks to provide gospel-centered care to every Georgia community through the local church.”
The website indicates, “the goal of Mission Georgia has always been to promote local missions opportunities across the state of Georgia.
“In 2019, Mission Georgia was reenvisioned with five main emphases: foster care, childhood literacy, human trafficking, prenatal and postnatal care and refugees and internationals.”
Ricky Thrasher, who leads GBMB’s chaplaincy ministry, said making chaplains aware of the telltale signs of human trafficking can save lives.
Thrasher said girls and young women caught up in the illegal trade can have a difficult time getting out unless someone intervenes.
“It’s heart wrenching,” said Earl Pirkle, interim pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Oakwood and a chaplain with the Hall County Sheriff’s Department.
“If it doesn’t tug at your heart,” he noted, “you’re pretty cold.”
Variety of services offered
Along with working to fight human trafficking, Georgia’s 1.4 million Southern Baptists help children who have fallen behind in school catch up, Thrasher added.
Working with students is a crucial ministry because social service agencies say two-thirds of children who do not read proficiently by the end of fourth grade end up on a path that could lead to criminal activity, Georgia leaders explain.
Georgia Baptists also work to share the gospel with refugees from around the world who escaped horrible circumstances to come to Georgia and begin new lives.
By coming alongside the refugees, Georgia Baptists teach them English, help them find housing and tell them about Jesus.
Those working with GBMB also help recruit Georgia Baptist families to provide foster care for orphaned children.
Georgia doesn’t have enough foster families to accommodate the children who need homes.
In fact, statistics show Georgia taxpayers spend more than $9 million a year for hotel rooms for foster children because they don’t have foster homes or adoptive homes for them to go to.
“The needs are so great all across our state,” Bius said. “Our God is greater than these challenges. By working, giving and praying together, we can meet those needs.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Roger Alford and originally published by the Christian Index.